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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe steps down

President Donald Trump has repeatedly attacked McCabe on Twitter for favouring Hillary Clinton

In an unsurprising move, Andrew McCabe, a frequent target of the GOP and President Trump, is stepping down as the deputy director of the FBI. He will go on leave immediately and plans to retire when he becomes fully eligible for benefits. Jim Lo Scalzo/ EPA
In an unsurprising move, Andrew McCabe, a frequent target of the GOP and President Trump, is stepping down as the deputy director of the FBI. He will go on leave immediately and plans to retire when he becomes fully eligible for benefits. Jim Lo Scalzo/ EPA

FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, criticised by President Donald Trump and other Republicans for alleged bias against him and in favour of his 2016 Democratic presidential opponent Hillary Clinton, has stepped down, US officials said on Monday.

Mr McCabe, who served as acting Federal Bureau of Investigation chief for more than two months last year after Mr Trump fired director James Comey, had been expected to leave his post as the No 2 FBI official in March.

The FBI said on Monday that David Bowdich, the No 3 official at the bureau, would take over as acting deputy director.

It did not comment on the circumstances surrounding Mr McCabe’s departure.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders, asked about Mr McCabe’s departure, said: “I can tell you the president wasn’t part of this decision-making process.” Ms Sanders said Mr Trump continued to have “full confidence” in FBI director Christopher Wray, who was appointed by the president to replace Mr Comey.

Mr McCabe had intended to stay on the job for about six more weeks when he becomes eligible for retirement, but decided to leave earlier rather than be transferred to a lower-ranking post, according to a former senior FBI official.

The earlier departure came amid concerns about an upcoming justice department inspector general report scrutinising the actions of Mr McCabe and other senior FBI officials during the 2016 presidential campaign, the official said.

During that period, the FBI investigated Trump campaign connections to Russia and Mrs Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was US secretary of state. No charges were brought against Mrs Clinton.

Mr McCabe began his career at the agency in 1996 as a special agent investigating organised crime.

Mr Trump’s firing of Mr Comey in May 2017 as the FBI was investigating potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia led to the justice department naming of special counsel Robert Mueller to take over the inquiry.

The president said later he dismissed Mr Comey over “this Russia thing”, and the firing has become central to questions about whether Mr Trump has sought to obstruct justice by impeding the Russian investigation. He has denied collusion between his campaign and Russia.

In a tweet on Monday, Mr Comey said: "Special Agent Andrew McCabe stood tall over the last 8 months, when small people were trying to tear down an institution we all depend on."

Last week, Mr Trump denied a Washington Post report that he had asked Mr McCabe, shortly after he became acting FBI director, who he voted for in the 2016 election. This left the FBI official concerned about civil servants being interrogated about their political leanings. The Washington Post reported that Mr McCabe told the president he did not vote in the election.

Mr Trump and some other Republicans have stepped up their criticism of the FBI, prompting Democrats to accuse the president and his allies of trying to undermine Mr Mueller’s investigation.

Senator Mark Warner, the senior Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, told PBS: “I’m concerned because there seems to be this pattern that anyone that's involved in the investigation into Russian interfering and possible collusion with the Trump organisation seems to end up losing their job or getting demoted.”

Republicans have criticised Mr McCabe in connection with the Clinton email server investigation. They have noted that his wife ran as a Democrat for a seat in Virginia’s state senate and received donations from then-Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe, an ally of Mrs Clinton and former president Bill Clinton.